Camerino Bakery: A great-value cafe for lunch in central Dublin
Review: The Goethe-Institut has put a real cook into its new cafe
- 37 Merrion Square, Dublin 2
- (01) 5377755
Caryna Camerino was mystified when her decaf coffee was depleted by a flurry of orders in her opening days. Then it clicked. The clamour for decaf came from mothers to be, after their antenatal appointments in nearby Holles Street. At the opposite end of the day, the evening classers came in search of a swift espresso (maximum caffeine) to give them the edge for their language class upstairs.
We are in the middle lull part of the day, neither avoiding caffeine nor jittery for a jolt, just here to have lunch. The parents of children learning German have just been and gone in a wave of orders, and the Camerino Cafe is winding down.
It’s in the basement of the newly reopened Goethe-Institut on Merrion Square in Dublin. Upstairs is the most beautiful public library in the city and down below we’re tucking into the best bowl of soup I’ve had in a long time. Wrapped around us is a building that has an A energy rating thanks to the environmental credentials of its partially underground modern extension. There’s a Georgian garden planted with specimens from that era, including a tree with deliciously weird strawberry like fruit with mango yellow insides and a bright red skin of gritty seeds. The cost of this transformation of a Georgian building into a future-proofed beauty is a closely kept secret but it is money that has been incredibly well spent.
My sandwich is a king of toasties. It’s got salami that’s been fermented till it honks, good cheddar and seeded sourdough toast finished with butter on the outside
The menu is an A4 sheet, written in biro on a clipboard, a real sign of a kitchen thinking on its toes and basing decisions on what’s there and what’s good. It offers a soup and two sandwich options – actually one sandwich option, as the parents have snapped up all the pastrami and sauerkraut in the last wave of customers. Along one end of the counter they’re growing mirco-greens in a row.
The room is generously high-ceilinged, housed in what was the old kitchen of the house. There is wood stacked in the fireplace nook where someone once cooked. Seating is on refectory-style beautiful oak benches and tables with a few smaller tables for two dotted around the edges. The walls are decorated with botanical photographs, exquisite close-ups of buds and succulents.
Sweet potato soup comes in wide generous white bowls with blue rims that look like enamel but are ceramic. There are soft chunks of the cheery orange root vegetable in here and so much more as well, chickpeas, chewy peas, a delicately spiced tomato base and finished with splodges of bright-green herb salsa. It comes with two large toasted slices of great sourdough bread and a portion of butter wrapped up in wax paper like a sweet, which is so much more thoughtful than the foil-wrapped food service version. All of this costs €5, making it the best fiver you can spend on food in this pricey old city these days.
My sandwich is a king of toasties. It’s got a chorus line of flavour kicks, a properly fiery and funky kimchi, salami that’s been fermented till it honks and then sliced thinner than the best prosciutto, a good cheddar to bind it all together and seeded sourdough toast finished with butter on the outside.
The cakes taste like they were made fresh that morning and are divine. I have a carrot and walnut slice, with a cake part that is soil-brown and dense with carrot and nuts topped with a light, fluffy, sweetened cream cheese and more fresh walnuts and some flower petals to make it all beautiful. There’s a cinnamon and chocolate cookie that has the right kind of hint of Christmas to it, excellent coffee (not decaf) and a tea.
After we’ve floated out of the place I wonder whose idea it was putting a real cook into a cultural space
So go to the Goethe. You don’t need a bump or a language bent to be there. After we’ve floated out of the place I wonder whose idea it was putting a real cook into a cultural space. These are so often dominated by cookie-cutter chains. Then I remember how Caryna Camerino has written movingly in this newspaper about her family history. Her grandfather Enzo Camerino survived Auschwitz. I don’t know if that had any bearing on the Goethe-Institut’s choice of person to run their cafe. By putting her delicious food in this forward-thinking place she is doing him, and them, proud.
Lunch for two with cakes, kombucha, spring water tea and coffee comes to €32.40.
Verdict A beautiful new cafe in a food desert part of town.
Music Lovely. Wild West themed when we were there
Food provenance None
Wheelchair access Yes
Vegetarian options Limited but good